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ABC's primetime coverage of LSU-Oregon Saturday night led all sports telecasts over Labor Day weekend with a 4.7 overnight Nielsen rating, up 67.9% from a 2.8 overnight last year for the comparable LSU-North Carolina game. The net also earned a 2.2 overnight for its regional coverage in the 3:30pm ET window, down 18.5% from last year. ESPN’s top college football game for the weekend was Monday night’s Miami-Maryland matchup, which earned a 3.4 overnight rating. That figure is down 50% from the comparable Boise State-Virginia Tech game last year. ESPN also earned a 2.3 overnight for both the TCU-Baylor game on Friday night and the primetime Boise State-Georgia contest on Saturday. The net’s first “College GameDay” telecast of the season earned a 1.7 overnight, flat compared to the first telecast last year. Weather delays cut into NBC’s first Notre Dame football telecast of the season. The net earned a 2.4 overnight for live game coverage from 3:30-5:30pm and 7:15-9:00pm. The second weather delay pushed the end of the game to Versus so NBC could air the made-for-TV movie "Game Time: Tackling The Past" (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes the Tulsa-Oklahoma game on FX, the channel's first college football telecast, earned a 0.8 overnight, indicating the net “will need time before viewers figure out it even carries that sport.” The 0.8 overnight was “even with FX’s rating in the slot last year” (USA TODAY, 9/7). Saturday night’s Boise State-Georgia matchup earned a 16.7 local rating in Atlanta, translating to an audience of around 402,000 HHs (AJC.com, 9/6).SELECT COLLEGE FOOTBALL OVERNIGHT RATINGS
OVER LABOR DAY WEEKENDDAY
MATCHUPSTARTNETRAT. '10 MATCHUPRAT.Sat. LSU-Oregon8:00pmABC4.7 LSU-North Carolina2.8Mon. Miami-Maryland8:00pmESPN3.4 Boise State-Virginia Tech6.8Sat. South Florida-Notre Dame^3:30pmNBC2.4 Purdue-Notre Dame2.3Fri. TCU-Baylor8:00pmESPN2.3 Arizona-Toledo1.2Sat. Boise State-Georgia8:00pmESPN2.3 Oregon State-TCU2.6Sat. (regional)3:30pmABC2.2 (regional)2.7Sat. Utah State-Auburn12:00pmESPN21.9 Western Michigan-
Akron-Ohio State12:00pmESPN1.8 Miami (OH)-Florida2.7Sat. BYU-Ole Miss4:45pmESPN1.5 Texas-Rice1.8Sun. Marshall-West Virginia*3:45pmESPN1.4 SMU-Texas Tech1.4
CHART NOTES: ^ = After weather delays, game finished on Versus from 9:19-9:41pm ET. * = Game aired from 3:45-5:45pm and then 8:45-9:00pm due to weather delays.
RIDING THE STORM OUT: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote two weather delays during the USF-Notre Dame game "could have been a television nightmare for NBC," but it "turned out to be a shining moment" for the net. NBC Sports golf Producer Tommy Roy on Saturday filled in for Rob Hyland, who typically produces NBC's Notre Dame games but was in South Korea for the World Track & Field Championships, and "no sports producer is more accustomed to weather delays than Roy." Similarly, no play-by-play announcer "is more used to filling time during weather delays" than golf announcer Dan Hicks, who filled in during USF-Notre Dame for Tom Hammond. Jones added, "Another star Saturday was sideline reporter Alex Flanagan. For those who think sideline reporters are unnecessary, Flanagan proved otherwise Saturday. ... We learned the teams were getting nutrition through food and drink, and that no one was allowed to watch video of the first half. That's good stuff" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/5). USA TODAY's Hiestand wrote NBC deserved "kudos" for its coverage, noting the net "reported oddities like the waiting teams not being allowed to review game video" (USA TODAY, 9/6).
SOLID DEBUT: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht wrote FX' college football debut was "led by solid play-by-play by former CBS announcer Gus Johnson and excellent commentary by Charles Davis and sideline analyst Tim Brewster." Johnson "brought his fun delivery to the telecast," and Fox deserves credit "for hiring him to headline its college football game of the week." Brewster, who coached the Univ. of Minnesota from '07-10, "brought a coach's eye to his ground-level position," which was a "big improvement over the usual inane reports from sideline reporters." But Bracht wrote FX' studio work "wasn't up to the same level." "The Insider" host Kevin Frazier was "solid with the highlight packages," but analyst Marcus Allen "has a lot to learn about the college game" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 9/4).
ESPN announced that the Oct. 29 Kansas-Texas college football game will air on Longhorn Network, the second UT game this season slated to air on the new network. LHN, which aired this past Saturday's Rice-UT game, will be the exclusive national distributor for the KU-UT game outside of the state of Kansas, where it will be televised on select over-the-air stations to be determined at a later date (THE DAILY). In K.C., Chris Fickett reported the KU-UT game will air on the Jayhawk Television Network in Kansas. KU officials said that the game “would be offered in high definition and that the two schools would share production of the game." KU will “have its own announcers for the Jayhawk Network broadcast” (KANSASCITY.com, 9/2). In Houston, David Barron noted UT "attempted to ratchet up the heat on distributors” by adding KU-UT to the LHN lineup. Grande Communications, which has about 140,000 cable customers, on Friday "became the largest local carrier" of LHN. Grande services the UT campus in Austin, "plus customers on the north side of San Antonio.” Barron noted Grande, "given its positioning on the UT campus and in Central Texas, was a key target for ESPN." Grande spokesperson Doug Curran said the parties "spent a lot of time trying to reach a deal that made sense for both of us." Still, major carriers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and DirecTV are "still unsigned" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/3).
HOOKING ANOTHER: In San Antonio, Dan McCarney cited sources as saying that the Univ. of Texas-San Antonio "has reached an agreement for its final five home games to be broadcast" on LHN this season. Financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but one source indicated that it "runs through this season, with an option for two more." UTSA played its inaugural football game this past weekend at the Alamodome, a victory over Northeastern State. The NCAA last month blocked "attempts to broadcast high school games" on LHN, and a source said that the ruling "set the deal with UTSA in motion." McCarney noted it "likely didn't hurt" that UT men's AD DeLoss Dodds has been one of UTSA AD Lynn Hickey's "main professional mentors since their days together at Kansas State” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/3).
STANDING IN THE WAY? In San Antonio, Tim Griffin reports LHN "wouldn't act as an impediment to a potential move of Texas to another conference if the Longhorns should choose to leave the Big 12." The LHN contract with ESPN "provides provisions where UT could walk away from its deal if it joins a new conference." The entire agreement with ESPN is "subject to the rules and regulations of any new conference where UT would relocate." The Pac-12, a rumored destination for UT, "already has a conference deal for the creation of regional sports networks for its members." A source indicated that "those agreements would supersede" LHN if UT joins the Pac-12. Griffin reports that "likely would force UT's programming to be folded into a reconstituted regional network with potential conference members such as Texas Tech, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/7). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes UT has "no way out unless it sheds its beloved Longhorn Network." If Texas A&M joins the SEC, as expected, UT's "only options would be cobbling together a weakened Big 12 or swallowing its pride to compromise on the network" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 9/7). In a profile of LHN, TEXAS MONTHLY's Jason Cohen writes, "Never has a single television channel caused such controversy without reaching any viewers.” LHN anchor Lowell Galindo said, “I’m not comparing the University of Texas to the Yankees in any way. But that would be a comparison as far as a polarizing team out there.” The fact that the network “has initially struggled to get into viewers homes is merely a short-term impediment.” If the Big 12 falls apart, LHN “makes it easier for UT to go independent; another option might be joining the Pac-12, which has a conference network planned with Fox” (TEXAS MONTHLY, 9/ '11 issue).
CATCH A TIGER: The AP's Alan Scher Zagier reported Univ. of Missouri is the "latest Big 12 member to join the digital realm, alongside Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State.” The Mizzou Network “will be an Internet-based channel with live, multi-camera broadcasts of the school’s Olympic sports along with behind-the-scenes glimpses into previously off-limits activities such as football practices or basketball locker rooms.” The channel “will roll out on Dec. 1," and includes "some premium content but mostly will be available at no charge.” UM Associate AD/Strategic Communications Andrew Grinch, who will oversee the project, said that “turning a profit is secondary to promoting the Missouri brand and its value as a recruiting tool.” Zagier noted the "initial goal is to offer Tigers fans a minimum of two to three videos daily, from interviews to game highlights to features on players or coaches.” UM is working with Learfield Sports and CBS Sports’ interactive division, and “also plans to partner with a local television station operated by the university’s journalism school” (AP, 9/4).
In the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Poynter Institute Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride noted ESPN's story about its relationship with Bruce Feldman and the college football reporter's account "do not match up." After joining CBS last week, Feldman revealed that ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper "instructed him not to participate in an interview with Poynter for a July column on the controversy around Feldman's role in writing a book" with former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach. McBride wrote that is the "most serious allegation Feldman makes, because if it's true, it undermines the foundation of Poynter's role in reviewing and publicly commenting on ESPN's efforts." In response, Skipper last week said, "It is categorically inaccurate that I told him not to talk to you guys. I am a little displeased with his actions." Skipper: "I called Bruce and said, 'If you feel that you need to go on the record with The Poynter Institute, you should do so. I will confess that I said, 'You need to remain careful.'" Feldman last week also claimed that ESPN The Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chad Millman "never really let him come back to work." But Millman said that Feldman "was very concerned about showing up at the Southeastern Conference media event and having other reporters focus on him." In response to that, Feldman said, "That is complete B.S. I said to him that the least of my concerns coming out of this is press coverage." McBride wrote the "primary ethical failure still rests on ESPN's shoulders," since the net "should have never let Feldman do the book." But Feldman "should have recognized that in writing Leach's book, he was becoming too much of an insider on that topic, walling himself off from too many important stories." McBride added, "Now his conflicts are CBS Sports' problems" (ESPN.com, 9/2). In Toronto, Raju Mudhar wrote, "This sordid affair remains can’t-miss stuff for anyone wanting to watch a sports-ethics car-crash in progress" (TORONTO STAR, 9/5).
Cablevision and Verizon FiOS customers "abruptly lost their access to Tennis Channel on Sunday midway through the United States Open," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. A new contract between Tennis Channel and the National Cable Television Cooperative, a consortium of cable operators that Cablevision and Verizon belong to, went into effect after midnight Sunday. The deal "requires its members to place Tennis Channel on a broad digital basic level -- or not at all." Tennis Channel Dir of PR Eric Abner said that the "wide majority" of the cable cooperative's members who carried the network under the consortium's old agreement "have chosen to continue to carry it under the new agreement." Verizon Manager of Media Relations Kevin Laverty said "conversations are ongoing." But Abner said that "negotiations are not continuing with Cablevision" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/5). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted at approximately 12:05 ET on Sept. 4 -- about five minutes after Cablevision's contract with the NCTC for sports tier carriage concluded, Tennis Channel's screen froze and viewers "saw the screen lock into a Garnier ad that ran during a commercial break" during "U.S. Open Tonight." Reynolds: "At around 12:30 a.m., the screen for the network's standard-definition feed showed the following statement over a background of two greenish, yellow tennis balls: 'Cablevision's contract with Tennis Channel has expired. Tennis Channel has decided not to renew our agreement and has unfortunately pulled their programming from our customers'" (MULTICHANNELNEWS.com, 9/4). CABLEFAX DAILY notes Tennis Channel is "so serious about its no sports tier stance that it has bid adieu to an available universe" of more than 10 million HHs. In addition to Cablevision and Verizon FiOS, several other cable providers "didn't opt in to the new co-op deal requiring broad distribution," including Suddenlink, Mediacom, WOW!, Knology and GCI. NCTC said a "significant number" of its members discontinued carriage. But NCTC added that the "bulk of its members do not carry the net on a tier (thus, the majority of members are keeping the channel)" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 9/7).
NIGHT AND DAY: In N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote the U.S. Open scheduling "can and has played a role in determining the outcome of the tournament." However, Tournament Dir Jim Curley explained that "a multitude of player and network interests factor into cramming a zillion matches into the annual fortnight." Curley: "We don't really look at it as day versus night because there are pros and cons of both. Some players would rather play when it's cool. Some don't want to finish after midnight or later." Curley said that Mardy Fish "actually prefers to play during the day." But Araton noted Fish would "seem to have earned more attention" than Andy Roddick, who "has played twice on the nighttime stage" in the first five nights of this year's tournament (N.Y. TIMES, 9/3).
NBCUniversal has been featuring "football-themed programming, including on-site segments with players and NBC Sports commentators" leading up to tomorrow's Saints-Packers NFL season opener, according to Tim Baysinger of BROADCASTING & CABLE. "Today" hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford had an NFL-themed segment on this morning's show, and hosts Al Roker and Matt Lauer tomorrow will "report on-site from Green Bay, Wis., including interviews with NBC Sports commentators and features with players." Saturday's edition of "Today" will feature an interview with "one of the analysts for the network's Sunday-night studio show 'Football Night in America.'" NBC late-night show hosts Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon "will also feature football-themed segments and sketches throughout the week." "Access Hollywood" will "air a behind-the-scenes feature football-themed segments and sketches throughout the week." The Weather Channel tomorrow will feature Roker and Stephanie Abrams "on-site in Green Bay reporting live" for "Wake Up with Al" and "Your Weather Today." E! tomorrow will "report live from Green Bay" for "E! News," and CNBC's Darren Rovell will "be on-site in Green Bay reporting live for CNBC's daytime coverage" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 9/7).
COMING TOGETHER: In New Orleans, Dave Walker writes both the Packers and Saints are winners in the "clever NBC Sports promo that's been running for several weeks in which a Packers tailgate party outside Lambeau Field is crashed by second-lining Who Dats complete with brass band." Walker notes except for the band, "all of the Saints fans are portrayed by Green Bay locals," and the Packers fan who says "Back to football!" is Mike Kostelnik, son of late former Packers player Ryan Kostelnik (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 9/7).
GOLF.com writers commented on the PGA Tour's new nine-year broadcast agreements with CBS and NBC, and Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem's role in securing the deals. Michael Bamberger wrote, "Tim Finchem must take a bow. Details weren't released but the Tour got a TV deal for the next nine years and purses are going up. ... Finchem and the players saw the economic reality and didn't ask for the moon and I think the decisions they made last week will serve the game well for years to come." Alan Shipnuck added, "This deal clinches Finchem's spot in the commish hall of fame." David Dusek: "Finchem earned whatever golden parachute is in his contract. ... While we wondered how Finchem and his team were going to make that happen in this economic environment, they just went out and got it done." But Gary Van Sickle wrote, "I'll be more optimistic when the hard numbers come out. That the Tour remains on CBS and NBC is quite a coup. Still, it feels like pro golf in America is shrinking" (GOLF.com, 9/6).
IN THE RING: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Ben Grossman reported the WWE "began running spots for its potential new network on Monday," as ads for a WWE Network appeared during "Monday Night Raw" on USA Network. The promos did not give a launch date, but indicated that the net "would be coming in 2012." Grossman noted the ads "included a mix of classic (think Andre The Giant) and current wrestling clips" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com 9/6). CABLEFAX DAILY notes details surrounding the launch "remain limited." WWE "declined to comment" following the promos, but has said in the past that it "favors a network model featuring multichannel ops as investors." Comcast-NBCUniversal "appears a viable candidate for part ownership of a WWE net given how USA and Syfy both enjoy successful WWE shows and are WWE's last remaining cable partners" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 9/7).
HE'S IN THE GAME: In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted EA Sports' "Madden NFL 12" was just released with Gus Johnson on the play-by-play, and industry sources said that this iteration "is likely Johnson's last Madden game call." But the Fox announcer said that that would be "news to him." Johnson: "From what I understand everything is a go for next year. Nothing has been expressed to me about any changes." Raissman noted "Madden" analyst Cris Collinsworth "is still under contract to EA" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/4).
TAKING IT TO THE NET: Basketball writer Chris Sheridan announced yesterday on Twitter that he has left ESPN after six years and launched a new website, www.sheridanhoops.com (TWITTER.com, 9/6).